California state Latino lawmakers issued a statement Wednesday rebuking Vice President Kamala Harris’ controversial comments in El Salvador this week when she told "folks" from Central, "Do not come" to the United States.
Harris received swift backlash from members of her own party for attempting to dissuade Central American migrants from traveling to the U.S. by warning them they will be turned away – a stance that echoed Trump-era policies.
The California Latino Legislative Caucus reflected comments made by Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called Harris’ remarks "disappointing."
"In keeping with past precedent we should not discourage asylum seekers from seeking a better life. They are doing what they need to do to survive," the California lawmakers said in a statement. "As such, we urge the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to follow the moral and legal imperative to create a process to allow all asylum seekers to come to this country as a part of a larger, long-overdue comprehensive reform of our immigration system."
In a tweet Monday, Ocasio-Cortez reminded the California native that, "Seeking asylum at any U.S. border is a 100 percent legal method of arrival."
The backlash hit the vice president after she gave a press conference with Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei where she said her focus was to address the "root causes" of mass migration.
"I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come," Harris said. "The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. But we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration. And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back."
But despite harsh criticism from the right and left this week over the vice president’s messaging on immigration, Harris’ office insisted people must be convinced not to come to make the trek to the U.S.
"The President and Vice President have been clear in dissuading people from making the dangerous and treacherous journey to the U.S./Mexico border," Harris’ spokesperson Symone Sanders said in a statement. "We encourage those who do want to come to the U.S. to do so legally and seek legal immigration options in their home countries."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday that there were 180,034 reported encounters with illegal immigrants in May.
Despite being tasked with tackling the immigration crisis, Harris has yet to visit the southern border.
Tyler Olson contributed to this report.